Ah, the perils of early season Flat racing! Not a lot went right for me at Catterick earlier, although in some form of hollow victory, I did say that Suwaan would finish third! It's probably best to put that one behind me and move on to Thursday, whose 'feature of the day' is full access to Instant Expert for all readers for all races, including our selected 'races of the day', which are...
- 2.50 Aintree
- 3.40 Taunton
- 4.00 Gowran Park
- 5.30 Taunton
- 7.20 Chelmsford
And I think I'll do the feature/race of the day combo again, using the first of our races above, the 2.50 Aintree, which is the Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase for 5yo+ runners over 3m1f on Good to Soft ground. The winner will receive just over £84k and will be one of the these nine geldings...
A very open looking contest in which Native River heads the Geegeez ratings, is best in at the weights and is the only previous course and distance winner in the field. Clondaw Castle brings the best set of recent results into the race* and alongside Tiger Roll is one of two last time out winners. More than half the field are aged 10 or 11, but I don't think age will be a factor here.
(* form numbers are only relevant when put into context)
As they all carry the same weight here, we'll look at them alphabetically, starting with Aso who is quite disadvantaged at the weights being second worst off and was beaten by 52 lengths when 8th in the Cheltenham Gold Cup just over three weeks ago. It's fair to say he's not the same horse as finished in the places in two Ryanair Chases and hasn't won a race since New Year's Day 2019, as his jumping has started to let him down. I suspect he'll be nearer the back than the front here.
Clan des Obeaux, on the other hand, is likely to be quite popular here and will probably go off as favourite. He won the King George in back to back years (2018/19) and has med the frame in all three runs this season (Betfair/King George/Denman chases), but hasn't quite recaptured the heights he was hitting a year or so ago. He's certain to give it his best shot, but he might not get it all his own way and has looked weak in the finish at times.
Clondaw Castle brings the best set of results to the table with finishes of 121321 since the start of 2020 and both his yard and jockey are in good form, but his own results need closer analysis, as his wins were at Class 2 (twice) and a Grade 3 last time out when 2 lengths clear in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase. The other three runs (232) in that six-race sequence were all at Grade 2, so he's still got improvement to make if he's going to feature here, but has a chance of making the frame, I think.
Militarian is a respectable Class 3 handicapper (3 wins from 4) and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but he has failed to win any of nine attempts at a higher grade, making the frame just once and I think he'll be outclassed here. He's worst off at the weights and he'd be my idea of last one home, if he completes the course.
Mister Fisher is a useful chaser who is 2 from 2 in Grade 2 contests, including landing the Peterborough at Cheltenham two weeks before Christmas, where he had to tough it off to see off some decent sorts like Kalashnikov and the afore-mentioned Clondaw Castle (he's 3lbs better off than CC here too). His jumping wasn't quite at it last time out, but ran well for a long way in the Ryanair at HQ before pulling up 2 out. Not an obvious winner here, but holds serious place chances.
Native River is tough and doesn't know when he's beaten. He was imperious with some bold jumping when landing the Gr2 Cotswold Chase in early February and showed his grit when fourth in the Gold Cup last time out. He had to dig deep that day from a long way out, but stayed on resolutely, as tends to be his trademark. This is no pushover of a race, but it looks a little easier on paper and I suspect he'll be better than fourth here in favourable conditions.
Real Steel won a Grade 1 and two Grade 2 races in Ireland between May 2019 and January 2020, but seems to lack stamina over these longer trips. Since that last win at Thurles, he has failed to complete two of his four starts and was 6th of 12 and 3rd of 4 in the others. He has ability, but a shorter trip Grade 2 race would probably have suited him better.
Tiger Roll won the National here in 2018 and 2019 but swerves this year's contest on weight. He regained his form by winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country at Cheltenham by 18 lengths last month, but had struggled in three outings between the 2020 and 2021 runnings of that race. There's absolutely no disputing the quality of this horse, but I do wonder in 3m1f isn't a little sharp for him nowadays and he's only 1 from 8 at 2m6f to 3m5f.
Waiting Patiently is a proven Grade 1 runner, but just doesn't win often enough. He won on his first crack at this level, when landing the Ascot Chase a little over three years ago and has raced exclusively in Grade 1 chases since, finishing U23323. The unseat wasn't really his fault in fairness, but despite his solid consistency does seem to always run into one (or two) just slightly better and my other concern is that 13 of his 15 career starts have been over 2m5.5f or shorter.
Today's 'feature of the day' is, of course, Instant Expert and these horses have won 73 races between them, so I'm expecting a lot of green on the charts, starting with overall career records...
Native River is the obvious standout there, proven at class and trip off a decent sample size and he clearly likes Aintree. Plenty of others have decent profiles for this race with only Aso and Real Steel looking like they might struggle.
We can then filter the above to just include their records over fences as follows...
...which, if anything, seems to improve Native River's percentages, but also keeps plenty in the hunt if looking at it from a purely statistical viewpoint.
I did say it was an open looking contest though, so let's try and work out how we think things might unfold. Most runners have had three or more outings this season, so I've set the pace analysis to last three runs, I've opened up the number of runners slightly to get a more workable/reliable sample size and as the ground is good in places, I've done the same there for the same reasons and if they go as we predict they will, then...
Native River might well attempt to set the pace of the contest and if allowed to do so, will be difficult to beat late on as he seems to stay forever. Tiger Roll is likley to be up there too, but the trip is probably too short for him. The bottom four on the graphic are probably in most danger, as this sort of race doesn't really lend itself well to horses who are held up.
Based on the pace graphic above, I'm happy to consider discarding Aso, Real Steel, Militarian and Waiting Patiently. Aso and Real Steel were negatives on Instant Expert for me and I think my write-ups were dismissive of all four's chances of winning here, so they're all gone.
That leaves us with five, of course and still too many to take forward to the final decision process. Tiger Roll is rapidly becoming (if he isn't already) an Aintree legend, but all good runs come to an end (even Bolton lost at Newport on Monday!) and I think his past few runs over shorter trips have highlighted a chink in his armour and I'm omitting him on trip here.
So to the final four and this bit is a bit easier for me, as I like Native River for this quite a bit more than I like any of the others and he's currently 6/1 in places, which might be a tad generous. Of the remaining three, there's probably not much to choose between Mister Fisher and Clondaw Castle at 8/1 and 15/2 respectively, but the former did beat the latter in December and is now effectively 3lbs better off, so I'll keep those two in that order.
That leaves me with Clan des Obeaux to consider and I think he beats the above pair into second place. He'll try to give native river a run for his money late on, but he doesn't finish as strongly in my opinion.
So, hopefully, it's Native River / Clan des Obeaux / Mister Fisher / Clondaw Castle.